The Balance of Manhood

Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner now joins the elite group of public officials who’ve damaged or destroyed their political careers over a bad decision. A New York Times op-ed article, “Those Manly Men of Yore,” looks at why powerful men make these kind of mistakes. The piece explains how, historically, sexual restraint was proof of a more capable man.

The idea of self-restraint is nothing new as writers from the Roman age celebrated men who controlled their desires, according the article. Obviously, many women have been in favor of greater restraint in men, in order to help protect family unity. (The author of this article happens to be female.)  Can greater restraint potentially strengthen the family and honor marital vows?   Possibly but the issue is greater than this question.  For each man, to be alive and strong, actually needs to strike a balance between restraint and pleasure.

The concept of managing oneself is important in my model of executive coaching. For example, it’s vital for those looking to quit smoking or excessive drinking to exert greater self-control. For those like Anthony Weiner, former California governor and Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger, or struggling Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, restraint theoretically would have saved both their careers and reputations.

However, in life, and in coaching, we discuss when there are  pulls in two directions, as there are with the forces of restraint and “nirvana.”   Nirvana, enjoying and living in the moment,  is the opposite of restraint.  This tension is managed by all throughout the life span.  All men deal with these tensions and generally strike a balance that works.   Each man finds himself in a unique situation, culturally, situationally (i.e, married/unmarried, living in a dictatorship or free country,etc.), and needs to determine his approach to this tension.

Some coaching ideas include:

  • There is nothing at all wrong with feeling physical attraction to someone, even if you’re in a relationship. But there is a difference between recognizing attraction and acting on it.
  • Unfaithfulness can belie a lack of responsibility in a married person (unless a couple is in an “open” relationship that is mutually agreed upon).  A lack of restraint is apparently far more serious in the public eye in a married man than in a single man.  Anthony Weiner “sexted” women while his wife was flying around the globe with Hillary Clinton.  In general, the public has a different standard for a married man.
  • Managing oneself  is apparently one component to leading a healthy lifestyle. Knowing how to manage habits such as food, drugs, gambling, and alcohol can prevent a lot of bad consequences.
  • If you are having difficulty with the tension between nirvana and restraint, consider talking to an executive coach or counselor who can help you get clear on what you want.

 


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Lessons of a Washington Scandal

For the past week, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner has been harshly criticized for “sexting”: exchanging lewd photos with numerous young women, one allegedly a minor, during business hours as a member of the US House. The fact that he’s also married only make his situation more embarrassing. Politicians, editorial columns and President Obama have chastised him and challenged him to resign.
For an increasing number of Americans, “sexting” is an accepted part of flirting online, widespread in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and countless dating sites. But Weiner’s celebrity, his leadership role and his additional missteps have turned this personal foible into a damaging national scandal.
Regardless of how we might judge Rep. Weiner’s actions and the public’s reactions, we can agree that this episode has thusfar worked out quite badly for him. In my executive coaching work, I refer to this sort of impulsive, destructive behavior as spinning out of control, and I have developed techniques that can help you stop the spin, balance your perspective, and retake control of your life. If you find yourself in a situation like this, keep these things in mind:

  • If you’re sharing any information about yourself, particularly online, take a moment to think about how far it might spread and the damage it might do.
  • Know who you’re dealing with and don’t make assumptions. The anonymity of the internet makes it easy to interact with people who aren’t who they say they are. If Weiner flirted with a minor, whether he knew it or not, his personal issues may become legal issues.
  • Our personal relationships, especially with our spouses and families, affect every other aspect of our careers and our lives. Problems at home can never really be kept hidden. They must be addressed.
  • Remember that the online world is not separate from the real one. Don’t devote time and energy to sites like Twitter and Facebook if it detracts from your professional success.

With the opportunities of new technology come emergent risks. Rep. Weiner may resign his Congressional seat or he may lose his approaching re-election bid. (Right now, he appears to be leaning toward outright resignation.) His marriage may end or he may be able to save it and discover ways for his wife and himself to heal. Somehow, he will have to live down his public humiliation. The best that we can do is to learn from his example, know how to recognize the spin, and take control before we lose control.
 


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